Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

by Robert Maynard

In the aftermath of President Obama’s election victory, he has suffered several setbacks in the “War of Ideas.”  This has put conservatives in a position to advance their cause.  As the shortcomings of Obamacare become more clear, it remains even more unpopular with the American public.  Added to that is the miscalculation that Obama and the left made on the matter of gun control.  A True North Reports article back in February made the following observation: “When it comes to the war of ideas, conservatives could learn something from the NRA and its pushback against the recent assault on the right of gun ownership.  This PJ Media article points out that they seem to be winning the battle for public opinion.”

After what the media portrayed as a victory for Obama and the left in the fiscal cliff battle, Obama was primed to go for the kill in the sequester battle.  The problem for him was that he overreached on this issue and it backfired on him.  The reaction to his overreach caused him to quickly flip flop on the supposedly catastrophic effects of the sequester.   A possible reason for this flip flop was pointed out in the True North Reports article:

Of course, pubic opinion may have played a role as well: ‘Some in the GOP saw public opinion at work. “The three-day Gallup tracking numbers certainly aren’t good for him,” said one House aide, pointing to surveys placing Obama’s job approval rating at 47 percent approve versus 45 percent disapprove — down from a post-election approval rating that topped out at 56 percent.’ The problem is that some see his change as a temporary one of political expediency and realize that they still need to remain vigilant.

The tide of public opinion was already turning against President Obama before civil liberties proponents for both the right and the left decided to “Stand With Rand”  in support of his filibuster attempt to get the Administration to answer the simple question of whether it had the constitutional authority to order drone strikes targeted at U.S. citizens on American soil.  It really was a simple question with, what should have been, a simple answer.  The problem was that it took about a month, a 13 hour filibuster and an outcrying of public support for that effort, before the Administration was willing to finally give the obvious answer.  (They previously indicated that they had no intention to order such strikes, but would leave the option on the table)  The question was not whether the Administration intended to order such strikes, but did it have the constitutional authority to do so.  The filibuster addressed the larger constitutional problem of runaway Executive Branch power.

So, the Obama Administration is on the ropes and losing the public debate over Obamacare, gun control, our spending problem and the abuse of Executive power.  One would expect that conservative leadership would be chomping at the bit to go strike while the iron is hot and press forward with an agenda of their own.  If a recent report is accurate, they seem instead to be attempting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  There are two examples that, if true, should cause conservatives to scratch their heads.

Both examples were covered by

With more and more conservatives in the House rebelling against John Boehner’s increasingly questionable Speakership, Republican House leadership is now moving to quash in-house concerns by reaching across the aisle for support. Leadership is moving in the wake of a surprising move by 16 House Republicans to vote against a Republican leadership-crafted closed rule on a government funding bill. The rule was designed to limit amendments to the government funding bill, but some House conservatives, concerned over the Boehner team’s refusal to consider a floor vote on an amendment to defund Obamacare implementation, bucked Boehner on the rule.

While GOP leadership in the Senate is supporting a move to defund Obamacare, the GOP leadership in the House is reportedly reaching across the aisle to the Democrats to prevent House conservatives from doing the same thing.  Given the unpopularity of Obamacare with the public, it is hard to see the rational for this type of move.  The problem is that the House GOP leadership is not confining its willingness to team up with Democrats to thwart conservatives to the matter of Obamacare:

After undergoing that unpleasant shock, House leadership hasn’t responded by listening to the concerns of the more conservative members of its caucus. Instead, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on Sunday that he would be open to ramming through bills without the support of a majority of his own Republican caucus. Not just on small bills. On issues like immigration and gun control, McCarthy said, he’d be open to taking rogue Republicans across the aisle to work with Democrats.

Obamacare, gun control, immigration, what other issues are the House GOP leaders willing to side with Democrats on against the majority of their own caucus?  Perhaps this should not come as a surprise.  While Rand Paul and others were standing up to an Administration over stepping the Constitutional bounds of its authority, some of the GOP old guard were having lunch with President Obama discussing a compromise.  I guess we now know the extent to which some GOP leaders are willing to compromise.

Yes, some compromise in politics is necessary.  The problem is when you compromise on issues that reflect fundamental differences in principle that are supposed to define you as a party.  Is the GOP really the party of constitutionally limited government, or is that just rhetoric to appease the base into giving more donations and volunteering more of their time.  Almost EVERY compromise we make with the Democrats, where matters of principle is are stake, it involves moving further down the road toward even bigger government.  GOP leaders are willing to argue over how fast we are to travel down that road, but few are willing to question the direction we are traveling.  Those who support bigger government are well represented by the Democratic Party.  Can anyone imagine the Democrats going along with an agenda that actually reduces the role of government, while only questioning the speed at which it is reduced?  The liberal base would tar and feather the Democratic leadership if it even thought about doing that.  It is difficult the even imagine that happening, yet the reverse is what GOP leadership does all the time.  There hasn’t been a real role back in the role of the federal government since Calvin Coolidge.  How on earth can GOP leadership expect grass roots constitutional conservatives and libertarians to get enthusiastic about the GOP as the party of limited government?